Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Texas DPS Officers Indicted for Manhandling Hays County Jail Inmates

Texans, for the most part, know the Texas Department of Public Safety as the state agency that handles Amber Alerts, and as the agency that oversees drivers' licenses applications and renewals. DPS offices are all over the state, most folk have visited them at one time or another.

DPS is also known for its own branch of law enforcement, the DPS Troopers (the Texas Highway Patrol), and for being the state agency that hosts the famous Texas Rangers. Drive any Texas highway or farm to market road, and sooner or later you will pass a DPS Trooper sitting on the roadside with his radar checking for speeders.

Two DPS Troopers Indicted in San Marcos

It's rare to see DPS Troopers personally make the news, and it's interesting to see the media coverage this month down in San Marcos, Texas (midway between the capital city of Austin and San Antonio, on Interstate 35). Seems that two Department of Public Safety troopers, Charlie Potter and Santiago Montez, have been indicted there.

Potter and Montez were arrested on September 22, 2011, and are facing charges of "official oppression" for events surrounding their dealings with two inmates in the Hays County jail back in March 2011.

According to media reports, the indictments describe the incidents as the two DPS Troopers "intentionally mistreated or detained a man by pulling or grabbing him" back on March 11th. Little more is known right now on exactly what happened here.

What is official oppression?

Under the Texas Penal Code (see details below), official oppression is a Class A misdemeanor that each carry a fine of up to $4,000, a sentence of up to a year in jail, or both. It is a bad act by a law enforcement official in the State of Texas that is harmful but not as serious as felony acts that include excessive force, something that we blog about quite regularly, since it is unfortunately something that happens all too often in our state.

What happens next to the Texas DPS Troopers?

Right now, Potter and Montez remain on the Texas DPS payroll although they have been suspended from work and they are free, having made bond ($10,000 for each Trooper). They are scheduled to be arraigned on October 27, 2011. Will they serve time in jail? Let's watch and see what happens.

Texas Penal Code Section 39.03

Here is the language of the Texas law on which the two DPS Troopers have been indicted:

Sec. 39.03. OFFICIAL OPPRESSION. (a) A public servant acting under color of his office or employment commits an offense if he:

(1) intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment, or lien that he knows is unlawful;

(2) intentionally denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, knowing his conduct is unlawful; or

(3) intentionally subjects another to sexual harassment.

(b) For purposes of this section, a public servant acts under color of his office or employment if he acts or purports to act in an official capacity or takes advantage of such actual or purported capacity.

(c) In this section, "sexual harassment" means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, submission to which is made a term or condition of a person's exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, either explicitly or implicitly.

(d) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

1 comment:

Detroit Criminal Lawyer said...

The same thing happened in Detroit not too long ago. Surprisingly it didn't get nearly as much news as the incident got over there. As a public defender (before I went into private practice), people used to claim that they were beat up all the time by officers and jail staff. I used to take what they said with a grain of salt. When I read stuff like this, it just makes me wonder